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Papers of the Week

2021 Feb 04

Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet

Potential Effects of COVID-19 on Cytochrome P450-Mediated Drug Metabolism and Disposition in Infected Patients.


Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been a global health crisis since it was first identified in December 2019. In addition to fever, cough, headache, and shortness of breath, an intense increase in immune response-based inflammation has been the hallmark of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) virus infection. This narrative review summarizes and critiques pathophysiology of COVID-19 and its plausible effects on drug metabolism and disposition. The release of inflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukins, tumor necrosis factor α), also known as 'cytokine storm', leads to altered molecular pathophysiology and eventually organ damage in the lung, heart, and liver. The laboratory values for various liver function tests (e.g., alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, total bilirubin, albumin) have indicated potential hepatocellular injury in COVID-19 patients. Since the liver is the powerhouse of protein synthesis and the primary site of cytochrome P450 (CYP)-mediated drug metabolism, even a minor change in the liver function status has the potential to affect the hepatic clearance of xenobiotics. It has now been well established that extreme increases in cytokine levels are common in COVID-19 patients, and previous studies with patients infected with non-SARS-CoV-2 virus have shown that CYP enzymes can be suppressed by an infection-related cytokine increase and inflammation. Alongside the investigational COVID-19 drugs, the patients may also be on therapeutics for comorbidities; especially epidemiological studies have indicated that individuals with hypertension, hyperglycemia, and obesity are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the average population. This complicates the drug-disease interaction profile of the patients as both the investigational drugs (e.g., remdesivir, dexamethasone) and the agents for comorbidities can be affected by compromised CYP-mediated hepatic metabolism. Overall, it is imperative that healthcare professionals pay attention to the COVID-19 and CYP-driven drug metabolism interactions with the goal to adjust the dose or discontinue the affected drugs as appropriate.